Monday, December 30, 2013

Morning Worship, 12/29/13: "Where do we go from here?"

Now that the child has been born, your tree will come down, the gift boxes will go to recycling, and life will return to “normal,” whatever that is.  But on these dark, damp days of winter, we all at times feel a certain sense of loss and uncertainty about where we go from here.  We search for a direction around which we can orient our lives.  We search for a star to guide us along the path.  We ask, "Where do we go from here?"

May the Lord be with you!

Candlelight Worship, 12/22/13: "The Genesis of Jesus"

Matthew 1 verse 18 says, “Now the ‘genesis’ of Jesus took place in this way.”  The Greek word “genesis” is often translated “birth,” so that the passage reads, “Now the birth of Jesus took place in this way.”  It then goes on to tell about the angel visiting Joseph and the decision-making process he undergoes, which we’ll talk about in great detail this morning.  But the story, in fact, says nothing about the “birth” of Jesus.  Matthew says nothing of a manger, the census, shepherds keeping watch, magi, mangers, room in the inn, and very little of Mary.  Matthew tells us nothing about the actual “birth” of Jesus; only Luke tells us those details, and we’ll read them both at Candlelight and our Christmas Eve communion service.  Instead, Matthew tells us the “genesis” of Jesus.  What does that mean?  

May the Lord be with you!

Morning Worship, 12/22/13: "No Room in the Inn"

I once saw a picturesque Nativity scene. Everything was in its rightful place--animals, wise men, Mary & Joseph, even a star. Then my eyes were drawn to the center, where the baby Jesus a laundry basket. While it seemed absurd at first, I quickly realized how appropriate that symbolism was.

May the Lord be with you!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Morning Worship, 12/15/13: "The Lion & the Lamb"

Is the scene described by Isaiah, where the lion and lamb will one day lie down together, the stuff of Traveler's Insurance commercials like the one above? Is it a cute and cuddly scene? Or is it dangerous? Who is this child that sits in the middle of the delicate peace, and what does he require of us?

May the Lord be with you this Advent.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Morning Worship, 12/8/13: "Carol Sing"

Leah & Rodger Trent lead us in a carol sing, providing historical information on carols and singing them with the congregation. 

May the Lord be with you this Advent. 

Morning Worship, 12/1/13: "Warring Opinions"

Someone recently said they’d like to hear my opinions more often.  I assured them my opinions weren’t any good anyway since they changed so often, but they were insistent.  So now I say, “Be careful what you wish for…you just might get it.”  This time of year, Christians inevitably cry foul, upset that they can’t wish anyone “Merry Christmas.”  They jump up and down about how we’re “taking Christ out of Christmas!” (which seems like very Christ-like behavior to me.)  They tell everyone how outraged they are, stomp their feet, and say “merry Christmas” in public places as if they are launching missiles in a battle.  They have even declared a war against the so-called “war on Christmas.”  So, what’s my opinion of that?  They…are only making it worse.  

May the Lord be with you this Advent.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Morning Worship, 11/3/13: "Zacchaeus or the Crowd?"

"The conversion of Zacchaeus" is a time-honored reading of this parable: Zacchaeus wants to see Jesus, is changed forever when he does, and becomes a generous man. Such an interpretation, though, is based on a cursory reading of the story. What if this was a conversion story...but not the conversion story of Zacchaeus?

May God bless you!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Morning Worship, 10/27/13: "How do you pray?"

This week’s Scripture tells the story of a reversal of roles.  In Jesus’ day, tax collectors were not popular.  Imagine if you were responsible for paying your federal taxes to your neighbor, who set the rates and skimmed what he wanted off the top.  Would you like him?  Tax collectors were despised.  Pharisees, on the other hand, were adored and respected.  They kept the religious law, lived holy lives, and served as an example to their community of righteousness.  Yet, the Pharisee is set up as the villain and the tax collector is the hero of this story.  What does this role reversal teach us?

May the Lord be with you!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Morning Worship, 10/20/13

Rev. Claire Butler of the Presbytery of WV preaches on the parable of the unjust judge, challenging our notions of what it means to be missional.

May the Lord be with you!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Morning Worship, 9/29/13: "Hurting People Hurt People"

Hurting people hurt people.  And they do it over and over again until they learn the one way in which a hurting person can stop hurting people.  Forgive those who hurt you.  Even if you don’t want to.  Even if you have to say it out loud everyday for a year.  Forgive them.  Jesus says to do this even if they sin against you seven times in one day.

May the Lord be with you!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Morning Worship, 9/22/13: "On Doubt--Why Certainty Is Not Necessarily Sacred"

Somehow, over time people of faith have come to believe that certainty is sacred, as if they can be saved by the force of their assuredness, when in fact Jesus came and reminded us that God is a mystery to simple folks like us.  No clearer example of the mystery of God and Jesus' teachings exists than today's parable of the unjust manager.

May the Lord be with you!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sermon from 9/15/13: "Vulnerability"

If you were to read this parable with your family one night before bed, you would probably interpret it to mean that God is the shepherd who never, ever leaves a single sheep behind.  God will always come for us.  You would be right.  But I ask you to also remember the deeper truth.  You have to be ready for God to find you.  You have to be willing to be found.  You have to believe you are good enough for God to love, or you will never ever experience the joy of that reunion.  

May the Lord be with you! 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Worship Recordings

My sincere apologies for not being able to post the audio of the past three worship services. On Aug 25, we were outdoors without a recording device. On Sept 1 & 8, our recording device in the church failed to record properly. We are working to correct the problem so that we can begin posting the service again as soon as possible! Thank you for your patience.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Photos from Summer Baptism & Taizé Services

*Photos courtesy of Larry Nickell. Thank you, Larry!

Last Sunday, we held a service of baptism at the Ronceverte Island Park. Eden Trent, daughter of Todd & Jill Trent, was baptized. Following the service, the Deacons hosted our annual church picnic, including popular games. Take a look!

Earlier in the summer, we hosted ecumenical Taizé services on Sunday evenings. Over 100 folks from 15 different churches attended. These services also took place at the Island Park. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sunday, Aug 25--Worship & Picnic at the river!


Please remember that worship will be held at the Ronceverte Island Park Amphitheatre (11am) on Sunday, Aug 25. Afterwards, the Deacons will host our annual church picnic at the same location. Hamburgers, hot dogs, and drinks will be provided. Please bring a covered dish (side or dessert) if you are able. Invite a friend! Games for the whole family will follow lunch.

Grace & peace,

Morning Worship, 8/18/13: "Fear the Lord?"

     Certain passages of Scripture are seared into our brains.  We know them by heart.  "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want."  We recite them when we’re in a situation in which we need a holy reminder.  “I can do all things…through him who strengthens me.”
     Today’s Old Testament passage is one of those familiar lines which we all know in our hearts.  “The fear of the Lord…is the beginning of knowledge.”  But do we understand it in our heads?  What does it mean to “fear” the Lord?

May the Lord be with you!

Morning Worship, 8/11/13: "A Call to Alms"

     A new report says 1 out of 3 mothers cannot afford enough clean diapers for her children. When approached for comment, Jesus responded, "Sell your possessions and give alms."
     Top assistant Peter then asked him, "Are you serious?"  

May the Lord be with you!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Morning Worship, 7/7/13: Kelsey McCoy

Kelsey McCoy is a rising sophomore at West Virginia University and a member of Ronceverte Presbyterian. Today, reflecting on the story of Jesus sending the disciples out to spread the Good News with only the clothes on their back, Kelsey speaks powerfully about finding faith in the midst of fear. 

May the Lord be with you!

Morning Worship, 6/30/13: "A Samaritan Heresy"

If your primary concept of Jesus is the sweet, cuddly, cute, baby Jesus…whose cheek you just want to pinch because he’s so innocent and angelic…who loves everyone and is kind even to those who hate him, then today’s passage probably upsets you.  Because in today’s story, he’s not cute, he’s at all cuddly, and he’s most certainly not sweet or kind.  Instead, he’s dead serious.  


Morning Worship, 6/23/13: "Accepting Rejection"

Today's Gospel lesson is comprised of an unusually odd story. It begins with a crazed, naked man approaching Jesus in a cemetery. What follows is a beautiful--and sometimes painful--tale of acceptance and rejection.

May the Lord be with you.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Morning Worship, 6/16/13: "Lessons from the Bootleg Preacher"

A great man died last week: Rev. Will Campbell, the self-described “bootleg preacher.”  If you have never heard of him, you’re not alone.  Most folks haven’t.  He liked it that way.  But I want to tell you his story and his theology, for it speaks to the core of the Christian faith.

May the Lord be with you!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Morning Worship, 6/9/13: "Regrets of the Dying"

A hospice nurse recently compiled the most common regrets of her dying patients, and I'd like to share those with you today.  I would say that you don’t have to be on your deathbed to consider such thoughts.  But to some degree, we all are on our deathbeds.  We all have regrets.  Some small, some large.  They reside deep within us, like caverns in the ocean, shading every choice we make, holding us back from being the very best version of ourselves.  

May the Lord be with you!

Morning Worship, 6/2/13: "The Centurion's Favor"

            Last weekend, Kerry asked me to help her carry a chair outside.  This was not an unusual request.  People ask me why I have a truck, and I quickly tell them it’s because my wife loves chairs.  The particular chair we were moving was upstairs, so I waited beside it for a few minutes.  Kerry didn’t come, so my stubborn impatience led me to pick it up and bring it downstairs by myself.  Bad idea.  I got it down, but by the hardest.  And I asked myself, “What is wrong with me?  Why can’t I ask for help and be willing to wait and receive it?” 
            With that in mind, I sought counsel from the Scriptures.  I remembered this story of the centurion, so I spent the week studying it.   Why did the centurion reach out to Jesus for help?  How long did he wait to receive it?  Why didn’t he just take the slave to Jesus?  

May the Lord be with you! 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Morning Worship, 5/26/13: "The Holy Family"

What is the practical significance of the Trinity?  Today, we explore that important question.

May the Lord be with you!

Morning Worship, 5/19/13: "To A Deeply Divided World"

The world is deeply divided.  None of us can deny that, and it certainly dampens our excitement about the future.  We’re divided between conservative and liberal, rich and poor, rural and urban, young and old, black and white, us and them, this religion and that religion. You could probably add to that list.  It’s true in our families, our communities, our nation, and our world.  The good news is that we always have been.  From the beginning of time, we’ve fought and argued with those who are different from us, and we’re still here.  The even better news is that God sent the Spirit to a deeply divided world, and it too is still here.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Morning Worship, 5/5/13: "Sabbath--Downward Mobility"

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, Sundays were simple.  You went to church, relaxed with friends and family, and broke bread together.  That was before cell phones, traveling teams, and increased work hours, all of which have combined to make Sundays anything but simple.  How, in today’s fast-paced world, can we reclaim the Sabbath as a vital part of our faith life?  How can we honor the Sabbath and keep it holy?  

Grace & peace! 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Morning Worship, 4/28/13: "Coloring Outside the Lines"

Our world is full of lines drawn by others which we are expected to stay within--political lines, racial lines, economic lines, cultural lines.  It looks less like a picture drawn by a kindergarten student than it does a high school cafeteria--with athletes here, farmers there, serious students in the corner, party people in the center, and those who don’t quite fit in the lines confined to the periphery.  God proclaims a radically different message, and we see it clearly in Peter’s vision from today’s Scripture.

Grace and peace!

Morning Worship, 4/21/13: "Proper Perspective"

Sometimes we fail to see things in proper perspective.  Something that appears to be small from far away turns out to be large up close.  Someone that appears to be frightening from a distance turns out to be kind in person.  Random events that happen at once seem to be connected.  

Grace and peace! 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Morning Worship, 4/7/13: "Holy Humor Sunday"

*Today, we celebrated "Holy Humor Sunday," infusing as many parts of the worship as possible with humor--from the bulletin to the music to decorations. While some of this will certainly be lost in an audio-only version, we hope our sense of joy about the resurrection shines through clearly! 

Holy Humor Sunday celebrates the biggest practical joke ever played.  Jesus won the peace by defeating death.  Death gave Jesus its best shot, and it wasn’t good enough.  He came back to life as a sign that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God.  “Peace be with you!” he joyfully says to the disciples!  Can’t you see the smile on his face!  


Monday, April 1, 2013

Morning Worship, 3/31/13: "The Stone is Gone!"

Some moments are so powerful they change the rest of our lives.  When Mary sat there weeping over the grave, cloths in hand, that could’ve been the moment she never progressed beyond.  Every day after that could have been a little bit worse, until she died.  But because she kept living, because she kept her eyes and ears open, because she remained open to God’s voice, when she heard, “Mary,” everything changed again.  For the good!


Morning Worship, 3/24/13: "Ain't No Rock"

Palm Sunday is a time to turn things around. And this year I want to turn the traditional Palm Sunday story beginning at the ending.


Morning Worship, 3/17/13: "Once a Slave, Now a Servant"

Holidays have a way of losing their original meaning over the years. It's as true with Saint Patrick's Day now as it was with Passover in ancient Israel. What can we learn when we compare the two? In short, we see the intimate "closeness" of God.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Morning Worship, 3/10/13: "The Prodigal's Priorities"

With whom do you identify in today’s story?  Are you like the prodigal son, all too aware of your own mistakes, deserving of your fate, yet yearning for a second chance?  Are you like the elder son, someone who has always done the right thing and been there for those close to you, but cannot find happiness?   Or are you like the father, heartbroken from the ups and down of life, ready at any minute to run down that which you lost along the way?


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Morning Worship, 3/3/13: "No!"

In today’s story from Luke, a group of churchgoers believe certain people have died because they’re more sinful than others.  They mention two specific instances where they think God has punished sinners with death--at the temple and underneath a falling tower.  That’s a silly idea, isn’t it?  We would never accuse God of such a thing today, would we?  Or would we.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Morning Worship, 2/24/13: "A Moment of Candor"

Jesus cries, "Jerusalem, O Jerusalem." He loves the holy city, he loves the people, and he wants to protect them from what is coming.  But he cannot.  He knows that.  As Barbara Brown Taylor says, “If you have ever loved someone you could not protect, then you understand the depth of Jesus’ lament” as he cries, “Jerusalem, O Jerusalem.”   I ask you, have you ever loved someone you could not protect?


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Evening Worship, 2/13/13: Ash Wednesday

I'm going to tell you something you already know.  Something you don't want to know.  Something which is particularly important today.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Morning Worship, 2/3/13: "Spiritual Gifts: Trained to Serve"

       The SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) of New Zealand has a problem.  For some reason, people there are much less likely to adopt a dog or cat from a shelter than they are to buy one from a breeder.  They think shelter animals are somehow inferior.  That prejudice, combined with the economic downturn which caused many people to abandon their animals, has led to extreme overcrowding in animal shelters across New Zealand, which is the case here in America as well.  They needed to find a way to get pets into homes where they would be cared for and loved.  But…how?
The SPCA decided to exercise the gifts of the dogs in shelters to prove, once and for all, that shelter dogs are as gifted as any other dog.  In fact, they decided to prove they’re far more gifted than we would ever imagine.  How?  By teaching three shelter dogs to…drive…cars…on the road.

*During the sermon, Stephen showed three videos of the dogs. They can be viewed here: Video 1 (SPCA New Zealand), Video 2 (training), Video 3 (driving dogs).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Morning Worship, 1/27/13: "Spiritual Gifts: Putting in Work"

I was blown away by a conversation I had with Bimbo Coles after hearing him talk to a few teenagers about the importance of working hard every day.  Here’s a guy who’s the most decorated athlete ever to come out of Greenbrier County—Virginia Tech star, Olympian, and professional basketball player for 14 years.  He is gifted athletically!  But his advice to young kids?  Being gifted isn’t enough.  You have to develop your gifts and learn to maximize their potential.  You have to work at something if you expect to see results.  I wondered, "Does spirituality work the same way?"


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Morning Worship, 12/30/12: "Christ, Coming of Age"

Am I the only one who would like to know how Jesus came of age?  There is a twelve year gap in Luke between the time he is born, shortly thereafter presented in the temple, and then travels with his parents to the temple in Jerusalem.  And nowhere else in the Bible does it fill in the gaps.  Don’t you want to know if he shared his toys in kindergarten?  Did he ever disobey Mary and Joseph?  Was he different than other children?  Did he know who he was?  Or did they have to tell him?  How could they tell him?  Did he pray?  Was his room clean?  Did he do his chores?  Don’t you want to know?